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September 7, 2013There are giant orange structures popping up on Ingalls Mall in the heart of the Michigan campus, and that can only mean one thing: ESPN's College GameDay is on hand for the Wolverines' primetime showdown with Notre Dame.
GameDay commentators Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard sat down with members of the local media Friday morning to talk about the game, the show and the rivalry.
Click here for a Q&A with Herbstreit.
You do these games every week. How different is it coming here?
Howard: "It's a big difference, coming here. It's like coming home. There is just so much love and support here. I was inside The Big House yesterday, and it gives me goosebumps, just to go inside there. It was completely empty. I ran the stairs, and it took me back to [Mike] Gittleson and what we used to do.
"A lot of fond memories here."
What do you think of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry coming to an end?
Howard: "Yeah, it's too bad. Not only for both programs, but for college football. If you ask any national writer who covers college football, they'll tell you: Michigan-Notre Dame is just great for college football, period. There are people who are not affiliated with either fanbase who just love seeing that game, because they love seeing great rivalries."
What makes this such a great rivalry?
Howard: "It goes far beyond my years on this planet. To me, what makes a great rivalry is the coaches, the players and the outcomes. When you have instant classics, and you have a team that knocks off another, and they can't wait to play again the following year, it builds up the whole narrative. And there's the historical part, because it started in 1887, and there was a lull, but you have two traditional powerhouses going against each other."
What do you expect when you walk out on set tomorrow?
Howard: "Wow. I expect a bigger crowd than we had last weekend at Clemson. I hope the kids come out and support GameDay, because that's why we're here. I', very excited to see what kind of turnout we get."
What differentiates the campuses, as you travel for this show?
Howard: "Every place offers something unique, and that's what makes it so enjoyable. It's like an entertainer that travels around - every place offers a different energy. Whether it's out in Eugene, Ore. or here or anywhere, it's great.
"We dread the fact that we have to get up so early, but we love the energy of the crowd, so it offsets that. We love the crowds."
Denard Robinson was asked to rank Michigan's rivals the other day, and he called Michigan State the "little brothers."
Howard: "I'd have to see what context he said that in. Mike Hart started that, I think. How did he rank them?"
Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State. How would you rank Michigan's rivals?
Howard: "That's the ranking. No doubt about it."
Michigan State is a different kind of rivalry, though.
Howard: "It's a testy rivalry. No disrespect to Michigan State, but they don't have the national appeal that Notre Dame has. I don't think anyone is fooled by that, right? I'm not telling you guys anything you don't know. No disrespect to the Spartans, they have a fantastic program. Nationally, they aren't Ohio State. You measure yourself nationally by Notre Dame, Ohio State."
Jeremy Gallon said you to had a long talk. Did you have some input in him getting the No. 21 jersey?
Howard: "Yes. I had some input. We had a conversation. Jeremy is a guy that, when you watch him play, you appreciate what he brings to the table. You don't have to be a Michigan fan. I've spoken with other people, and they agree - he jumps out at you, what he does on the field. He's always accountable, reliable. He's great when the ball is in his hands. He's a team player, a hard worker. That type of thing comes across when you watch him. You're like, 'Man, this No. 10 for Michigan. Who is he? He's always around, doing something.'
"He's a fantastic kid, and we had a good conversation. I'm happy he's wearing No. 21."
What did you see from Michigan's offensive line last week?
Howard: "Michigan's offensive line, this will be a big test for them. I judge individuals, units and teams by their competition. I can't judge Notre Dame by how they did against Temple. I can't. I can't just our offensive line against what they did against Central Michigan.
"This is going to be that test. Any elite team will have three challenges a year that you can really judge them by. That's how I look at it. I'm not judging Johnny Manziel by what he did against Rice for a half. I didn't care. Whatever he does this week against Sam Houston State, I don't care. The next week: Alabama. That's the first test. I hope that makes sense."
How much would you have liked to play under the lights at Michigan Stadium?
Howard: "Oh man, I'll tell you. I spoke to the team two years ago. I said, 'You guys, this is a huge opportunity to make history. You're doing something that no team has ever done at Michigan.' I was jealous. That's history. When you have such a storied program like Michigan, any time you can do something for the first time, that's amazing and you should take full advantage of it."